Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Salted Caramel Macaroons

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There are some things about where I grew up that I miss incredibly much, often. The ocean, for one… the way I could wander in and around it barefoot, in a swimsuit, sandy salt water hair strewn all over the place. The constant warmth and sunshine that balances with the tradewinds and island breezes off the water. The fresh produce everywhere. Mangoes, lychee, apple bananas, guavas, mountain apples, papayas, lilikoi…

There are two types of produce I took for granted as a kid though. First off, avocados. They grew in abundance throughout our backyard. So many, growing so rapidly, and I despised them. The other? Fresh coconut. Any kind of coconut, really. Fresh, dried, shredded, sweetened, coconut water… I remember hacking off the husks from fresh coconuts, then taking a hammer and nail to pierce the “eyes” of the seed, then finally cracking open the coconut and being horribly disappointed by my own distaste for the actual coconut flavored insides.

Of course now, at the ripe old age of twenty-eight and thousands of miles away from the island I grew up, I have learned to appreciate both avocados and coconuts. Purchasing either of these things breaks my heart every time. They’re expensive, as neither is native to where I live. Regardless, I almost always have avocados on hand. And most certainly we have some kind of coconut on hand – be it shredded coconut, coconut water I love to add into smoothies or drink plain, coconut oil, coconut flour…

It’s a good thing I do keep shredded coconut in our pantry because when I saw the following recipe I had to make it immediately. There are few recipes that hit me with such urgency, but these cookies demanded attention. With such a short ingredient list, these macaroons are not at all intimidating to make, but they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and decadent at the same time.

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Salted Caramel Macaroons

Recipe slightly adapted from Tracy Shutterbean.

Yields about 12 macaroons

Ingredients:
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, placing a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla together. Slowly stir in the shredded coconut, mixing until well combined.

Add the egg white and 1/8 teaspoon of salt to a small bowl (or your stand mixer bowl if you’re using it to whip the egg white) and whip on medium-high until very stiff peaks form (about 2 minutes).

Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the egg whites in with the coconut mixture. Using a spoon, form the mixture into balls approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter then place them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Place the sheet into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. After 20 minutes, start checking for coloring. Look for a light golden color on top, and a nicely tanned color underside.

Remove from the oven leaving the macaroons on the sheet pan until they’re cool enough to pull off (3-4 minutes). Transfer macaroons to a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

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While the macaroons cool, prepare the caramel.

Place the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and don’t touch it until the sugar starts to melt. It will turn pale yellow and then start to darken. When it just starts to darken, start stirring carefully but rapidly to fully distribute any unmelted sugar throughout the pot. Keep stirring, as the sugar will easily burn. Stir until all the sugar is melted and there are no lumps. Turn the heat down to low and when the sugar has a nice copper color to it, add the butter. Stir in the butter and add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Remove the pot from the heat. When the caramel has a golden color to it, remove from the heat. Use a small spoon and drizzle the caramel on top of the macaroons.

The macaroons will keep uncovered for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Palak Paneer

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Going out for dinner can often become an adventure for us. Since I will eat meat if it sounds like a dish I’d enjoy, menus can be a little bit more approachable. However, I am typically going to be eating with my husband or kids, so the menu has to include vegetarian fare that is appealing. Perhaps that’s why we eat so much Mexican food. But another cuisine that is extremely and deliciously vegetarian friendly is Indian food.

There are a couple places you can get decent Indian food around us, but by the time we have paid for four buffet style meals, added two beers or fresh chai or fresh lassis to the bill, these meals don’t come cheap.

As it turns out, one of my favorite dishes, palak paneer is not overly difficult to make. It comes together rather simply and quickly. The dish itself is based with a spiced, pureed spinach curry laden with cubes of fresh paneer cheese. Since we’re going to blanch the spinach before pureeing it, the color stays vibrant and brilliantly green. This dish is flavorful, but mild enough to be enjoyed by kids as well.

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Palak Paneer

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

1 pound paneer cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup canola or sunflower oil
1 1/2 pounds loose spinach leaves
2 tablespoons ghee or butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
one 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 green Serrano peppers, finely chopped *
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
scant 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
salt and pepper

  •  If you prefer a milder heat, you can use Anaheim peppers in place of the Serrano peppers. If you DO use the Serrano, make sure to taste it before you add it to the dish, to make sure you don’t create something too spicy for you to enjoy.

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Spicy Red Juice

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A while back, I did a juice cleanse. Prior to, and since then, I’ve read numerous articles here and there about the true benefits of juice cleanses. Most articles debate the actual health benefits of juicing. The truth, for me, is that when I did my three day juice cleanse, I had a lot more energy, my hunger was successfully filled, and it was an easy way to cut out some of the extra, heavier foods, I tend to include in my daily diet.

As I have said often, when it comes to food in general, I believe mainly in balance. I don’t think a juice-only diet is particularly spot-on and certainly isn’t a great option for everyone, but here and there, especially when only done for a few days and paired with exercise and a decent amount of sleep, it’s entirely okay. Long term, I believe the healthier route probably falls along the lines of including juices into an already balanced diet of fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

I sort of jumped off the juicing kick, despite the folks at Breville sending me a free replacement  juicer when ours died without warning. The other day, however, fresh juice was the one thing I was majorly craving. Being a lady who enjoys listening to (and indulging in) the foods my body wants, I raided our refrigerator and fruit bowl to make a juice.

The result was this pleasantly balanced, slightly spicy juice. I love using ground turmeric for the color, especially when cooking rice or broths. Fresh turmeric, however, also has a great slightly spicy flavor with notes of ginger and orange. It’s high in manganese and iron, as well as a great anti-inflammatory. Along with the ginger in this juice, the spiciness is fully present but not overwhelming, balanced nicely with the sweetness of apple, orange, sweet potato and carrots. Juice cleanse or not, this is a great juice completely worthy of being consumed anytime you want.

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Spicy Red Juice

Yields about 24 ounces of juice.

Ingredients:

1 large fuji apple, cored
1 large sweet potato (yam), peeled
1 large navel orange, peeled
2 stalks celery
1- two inch piece of ginger, peeled
1- one inch piece of turmeric root, peeled
1 large beet, peeled
2 large carrots
1/2 a meyer lemon, peeled

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Directions:

Run all of the ingredients through a juicer such as this one. Stir and drink immediately.

*For the highest quality of nutritional benefits, fresh juices are best consumed right after being processed so the ingredients don’t have time to oxidize while being exposed to air. :)

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The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz: Vanilla Ice Cream

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I understand we’re nearing the middle of January, but I’ll tell you right now – ice cream has no particular season. It really is enjoyable year-round. My mother-in-law gave me the KitchenAid ice cream attachment for Christmas and since then, I’ve been researching (and pinning) ice cream recipes left and right.

There are numerous flavors I cannot wait to experiment with, but I have never made homemade ice cream in my life (until now) and decided that something extremely straightforward and not at all fancy would be a good place to start.

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I checked out David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop at our local library. David is a professional cook, pastry chef, author, and blogger. I’ve been a fan of his blog and recipes for a few years and knew that this book wouldn’t lead me astray when it came to finding a good ice cream recipe. This book features numerous homemade ice cream recipes, sorbets, granitas, and other frozen treats. Many of the recipes sound incredibly irresistible… Lavender-honey, fresh ginger, pear-caramel, roasted banana, and panforte (an Italian cake featuring toasted almonds, spices and candied orange peel) being at the top of my list for recipes to attempt.

For my first ever homemade ice cream, I decided to follow David’s recipe for vanilla bean ice cream. I halved the recipe, as we also had dark chocolate brownies on hand and no need for a full quart of ice cream. After the first bite, however, I wished I had made the full recipe as this ice cream is perfectly sweet, creamy, and deliciously amazing on its own. So good in fact, my husband, Silas and I decided to have dessert at 4:30 in the afternoon when the ice cream finished, before dinner rather than after.

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Vanilla Ice Cream
Recipe modified from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

Yields approximately two cups of ice cream.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Directions:

Warm the milk, sugar, salt, and half of the heavy cream in a small pot over medium heat. Once the milk is warm, scrape the seeds from the halved vanilla bean into the milk mixture. Add the scraped bean, too. Cover the pot and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, allowing the vanilla to flavor the milk mixture.

Pour the remaining heavy cream into a small bowl (steel is preferable if you have one) then set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed egg yolks and milk back into your small sauce pot.

Over medium heat,  stir the egg/milk mixture constantly, scraping the bottom of the pot while you mix. Continue stirring and cooking the mixture until it thickens and can coat the back of your spoon or spatula. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer, into the remaining heavy cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, then stir in the vanilla extract. Continue stirring the custard over an ice bath, until the custard cools. Place the custard into your refrigerator until it’s thoroughly chilled.

When you are ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean from the custard. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will not freeze hard in the machine, but reach a soft-serve consistency. You can serve it like this if you wish (it’s delicious) or scoop the mixture into a lidded container and allow it to harden in the freeze for at least one hour for it to reach a scoop-able consistency.

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Gluten and Grain Free Banana Pancake(s) for One Lady (or Sir)

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When it comes to being in the kitchen, I’ve admitted that I have issues with micromanaging anyone else who may want to help. I work better alone when it comes to cooking. Give me some music and an empty kitchen and I will have a food-making-party-for-one so that I can happily feed you (whoever you may be) after my solo time. I’ve stopped making excuses for this and I don’t feel bad about being this way. Truth is, I can play nicely with others if necessary. I can suck up my crazy-brain antics and desire for things to be done a certain way… I just prefer not to. The kitchen is my space of meditation and peace, where a lot of my creative energy goes these days (as well as frenzied desire to make things that taste good and look appealing simultaneously).

That said, sometimes in the week I am left without having anyone else to feed in the middle of the day. More often than not I drink too much coffee then eat whatever sounds good in the moment – salad, eggs topped with spicy salsa, toast, fruit… An almost careless thrown together mess of anything to get through a few hours. Sometimes I get the inkling to experiment with things I’ll eventually feed my husband or Silas.

I had some ripe bananas laying around one afternoon and to be completely honest, I did not have high hopes for the following recipe. Yet I was pleasantly surprised. This recipe makes either one large pancake or two medium sized pancakes. There is no flour involved, no leavening (what!). The mashed bananas and eggs work as a binder to keep these pancakes together, while whipping them up adds air in to the mixture, creating a semi-fluffy pancake as well.

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Gluten and Grain Free Banana Pancake(s) for One Lady (or Sir)

Yields one large, or two medium, pancakes.

Ingredients:

1 medium, ripe banana (plus another for serving, if you want)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (plus 1/2 teaspoon more for cooking)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of fresh nutmeg

Directions:

In a small bowl, mash up the banana with the cinnamon, half a teaspoon of coconut oil, egg, vanilla extract and nutmeg. Beat with a fork until well incorporated and few chunks of banana remain.

Heat a large sauté pan or griddle over medium heat and add the remaining half teaspoon of coconut oil. Pour the mixture onto the griddle for one large pancake, or split it into two pancakes.

Cook for about 3 minutes until the top has mostly set (isn’t runny anymore). Gently flip the pancake and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until nicely golden brown.

Serve immediately, topped with coconut butter or butter, and warm syrup.

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